Beautiful Children

Fourth World Eye Blog

Repressing Sexuality and Culture in Indonesia

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    It is violent and repressive Islamic cultural imperialism. And should have no place in a secular state as diverse as Indonesia.
After being pushed through parliament on October 30 2008 to cries of "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) a controversial anti-pornography bill was ratified by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on 26 November as Law No. 44/2008 on Pornography.
The law which prohibits even implied nakedness and provides for up to ten years imprisonment is not about pornography as much as it about Islamization and cultural hegemony. It is a severe attack on indigenous peoples, their freedom of expression, threatening tradition, art as well as national unity because the law polarizes the electorate and feeds regional instability ahead of the 2009 presidential elections.

    What will happen with mature tribal Javanese and Melanesian women still going around bare breasted; Balinese women’s kebaya (lace top with a low neckline) and dances - some might consider erotical- with navels showing. And what about the penis sheath or “koteka”, a traditional clothing made from a dried out gourd worn by native male inhabitants of some western New Guinea highlands societies to cover their genitals? The koteka is used as part of a cultural expression, for ceremonial use or pure decoration and not with any erotic meaning.

    The attempted alteration of local customs and eradication of the koteka in Papua by the Indonesian government in the 1970s ("Operasi Koteka" -"Operation Penis Gourd") had been largely unsuccessful with men wearing shorts they were forced to wear as hats and women using the dresses as carrying bags. The new law will likely be much more successful.

    While the penultimate (September 2008) version of the anti pornography bill protected cultural expression and the representation of sexuality in the arts and culture by allowing for exceptions for regional interests to prevent local customs from being interpreted as ‘pornographic’. The ratified version does not protect any of this.

    Clearly, implementing the anti pornography law pro-Sharia Islamic fundamentalists have been further emboldened and empowered. It is possible now for racist or Islamic fundamentalist police officers or religious morals enforcers to exploit the anti-pornography law to persecute local community members not submitting to the Islamized standard.

    Evidently the tragedy in West Papua is going on. Brutal Indonesian military and authorities continue their reign of terror. Tribal people are still being slaughtered. And the world is doing very little to stop it.

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